Review: Aun Aprendo: A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of Aldous
Leonard Huxley by Brian Cassidy
Aldous Huxley is primarily remembered -- in the popular imagination at least -- for one book, his classic dystopia Brave New World. This is unfortunate. Huxley was one of the most prolific and versatile British writers of the twentieth century. He wrote on everything from philosophy to psychology, history to the paranormal. He was a pioneer in the field of drug literature, clearing the way for Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, and other seminal figures of the counterculture. Huxley authored dozens of books and during his life published well over two thousand short stories, poems, dramas, screenplays, and essays. He worked as an editor, journalist, reviewer, and translator. In other words, any Huxley bibliographer has before him an enormous challenge.
It is perhaps not surprising therefore that no comprehensive bibliography of Huxley has been undertaken since before his death in 1963 (Claire John Eschelbach and Joyce Lee Shober's Aldous Huxley: A Bibliography 1916-1959 [Berkeley, 1961]) and no descriptive bibliography since R. Duval's in 1939. As explained in James Sexton's foreword to the new Aun Aprendo: A Comprehensive Bibliography of the Writings of Aldous Leonard Huxley (Boston: Bromer Booksellers, 2011), though there has been scattered scholarship in various academic journals (most importantly by David Bradshaw), there remained no complete guide to the works of Huxley. Thankfully scholar, collector, and bookseller David Bromer has remedied that situation.
The result of over fifty years of collecting and twenty years of research, Aun Aprendo (completed in collaboration with Shannon Struble) is an admirable example of the bibliographic form. Bromer has not only gathered and synthesized earlier research, but has added "hundreds of titles to what had been included in previous bibliographies" (Bromer p. 21). He has corrected erroneous attributions (Huxley often wrote anonymously or pseudonymously), delineated various editions, and established initial appearances. Given Huxley's prolificness, Bromer wisely focuses on first appearances and first editions (both British and American), "except where the information is necessary to differentiate between the first and second printings" (21). Book and periodical contributions, screenplays, translations, adaptations, and interviews are all carefully covered. Main entries follow standard bibliographic conventions, with full collations and physical descriptions. Initial print runs are included when known. Bromer notes (infrequently) when he was unable to personally examine the item in question. In short, Bromer has created (again in the words of Sexton) "a full and reliable checklist and bibliography."
All the more admirable is that the compiler accomplished all of this in such a handsome form. Designed by Roderick D. Stinehour, set in type by Avanda Peters, and bound by Acme Bookbinding of Charlestown, Massachusetts, Aun Aprendo was obviously assembled with ease of use in mind. Pages are uncrowded and crisply presented, with generous spacing and margins. The paper (Rolland Opaque) is bright, smooth, and substantive; the binding, durable and attractive. A list of references and a detailed index are present. Many full-color images are also included (though a few seem distorted or warped at the edges, perhaps the result of improper camera settings). There are more careful touches as well. Each major section is precisely titled (e.g. "Contributions to periodicals which constitute the work's first appearance in print"), largely obviating the need to search the book's preliminary materials in order to remind one of its scope. In short, where most bibliographies are too often merely utilitarian, Aun Aprendo gives as much consideration to its readership as it does its scholarship.
In fact, the book is such a fine production that readers may find themselves wanting more. While Bromer maintains an admirable and in many ways necessary focus given the scope of his subject's oeuvre, his entries are spartan, hewing closely to the items at hand. The language is exact and concise, with few digressions. Aun Apprendo is clearly the result of significant literary sleuthing, yet there are only infrequent hints of this in the text. How certain publishing details were discovered could have made for interesting reading. Huxley's correspondence with publishers and editors might have been quoted. The occasional glimpse of a book's larger publishing context might have sanded the sharp edges off so many bare facts. Indeed, certain entries all but beg for a fuller accounting. For example, the circumstances surrounding item D5, a proposed Huxley screenplay based on Alice in Wonderland produced for Disney, are explained with only the tantalizing "Walt Disney rejected Huxley's synopsis."
But these minor and admittedly personal preferences are dwarfed by the final result. Collectors, librarians, and booksellers will find the work indispensable. It is unquestionably now the standard work on the publications of Huxley.
The book is available in two formats: a trade edition of 400 in jacket ($125, available from both Bromer Booksellers and Oak Knoll Books) and a deluxe limited edition of 50 ($350, with 35 for sale) signed by Bromer and available directly from the publisher. The deluxe, issued with marbled endpapers and in slipcase, is bound in a yellow cloth with leather spine label, cleverly alluding to the deluxe British edition of Brave New World. This version also prints a previously unpublished Huxley poem. The brief lyric, written for Huxley's first wife, was originally inscribed in a copy of his first published book, The Burning Wheel. That copy now resides in the bibliographer's collection. Both it and Aun Aprendo are a fitting tribute to Huxley's legacy, one which Bromer has done much to foster. Researchers, aficionados, and the book trade at large owe him a debt of gratitude.
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